Get Your Mise en Place
The holiday season seems to have crept up on us once again! A whirlwind of activity interspersed with planning, shopping, working, wrapping, and of course, cooking. At the heart of what we do as cooks, and chefs alike, is pleasing people. Planning and executing not only a great meal, but an all-around great experience-from the charcuterie board to the chocolate ganache torte, the music to the lighting, from the center piece to wine glasses - we aim to please…and it can certainly get hectic! But maybe it doesn’t always have to be. I’d like to introduce you to mise en place. No, it isn’t a physical ‘place’, but more a state of mind, a plan that you can incorporate into your own perspective this season.
Mise en place is a phrase used commonly in professional kitchens. “Make sure you have your mise en place!”; “Who’s getting my mise en place?!”; “don’t mess with my mise!”. Mise en place is a French term which, in its simplest form, means “putting or gathering in place”- having all of your ingredients peeled, chopped, sliced, grated, and measured; having all of your pots, pans, knives, spoons and side towels set and ready to go; and having your mental mise en place, your focus, your plan to ensure a smooth and efficient service. Chefs have been getting their “mise en place” day in and day out for generations. And I think it would help you this holiday season to get your mise en place.
Step 1 in getting your “mise” is to plan your evening. Make lists - guest list, shopping list, prep list. Plan any food prep steps that can be taken a day before your evening- cheeses sliced, pasta cooked (and cooled, reserved to be reheated and sauced), vegetables peeled and cut, meats for roasting cleaned (and tied if necessary). Prosciutto and salami for your charcuterie board can be sliced and wrapped. Dips and condiments spooned into bowls and ramekins. All ready to be unwrapped and arranged on the day of your party. Save some time!
Be sure to order your prep list in the most efficient fashion. For example, put your water on for your pasta before you start peeling carrots, or chopping herbs. Once the water is boiling, your pasta goes in and you have 10 minutes to continue peeling and chopping. Organization and multitasking are keys to efficiency.
Tables set, playlist picked, plates and silverware arranged. Check, check, and check!
Ultimately, on the day of your holiday event you should be able to unwrap and assemble your platters, place your roast in the oven, heat your sauce, and of course, pour yourself a well-deserved cocktail, all just as your guests are arriving.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic holiday season, but also important to stop at the tail end of it and take in our surroundings, enjoy friends and family, and get our minds into a good place…thanks to our mise en place.
Dec 22, 2021